MANILA — Former President Rodrigo Duterte has maintained that the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction over the Philippines after the tribunal authorized the reopening of an inquiry into the bloody war on drugs, his former spokesman said Thursday.
According to lawyer Harry Roque, Duterte is ready to face complaints against him, should there be any, but only before Philippine courts.
"President Duterte has made it clear, 'Do what you want.' You will never have jurisdiction over his person and of course, we have always maintained that we will uphold Philippine sovereignty, that he will only face criminal prosecution before a domestic court," he told ANC's "Headstart".
Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the Hague-based tribunal in 2019, a year after the ICC began a preliminary probe into the crackdown.
The ICC launched a formal inquiry in September 2021, only to suspend it 2 months later after Manila said it was re-examining several hundred cases of drug operations that led to deaths at the hands of police, hitmen and vigilantes.
Officially, 6,181 people were killed in Duterte's "war on drugs" but rights group say that up to 30,000 may have been killed, some innocent victims, and that corruption was rife among security forces that acted with impunity.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan asked to restart the inquiry in June 2022, saying the Philippine government under Duterte's successor, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., had not provided enough evidence it was carrying out thorough inquiries.
The ICC said that while the Philippines' withdrawal from the Statute took effect on March 17, 2019, the court "retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that occurred on the territory of the Philippines while it was a State Party, from 1 November 2011 up to and including 16 March 2019. "
In a statement on Jan. 27, the ICC said its pre-trial chamber "is not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court's investigations".
"The various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps," it added.
Duterte's camp took exception to ICC's decision.
"As the President has said, we take offense because there's standing in judgement against the efficiency and effectiveness of our criminal justice system," Roque said.
"The ICC was never intended to stand in judgement against domestic institutions. It is very clear. It is only when domestic institutions are unable and unwilling to exercise jurisdiction that the ICC should exercise jurisdiction," he added.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse